The Corner

Spiked

Perhaps releasing the photos of a dead Osama bin Laden is a bad idea. Maybe they would reveal an operational detail that’s better left undiscovered. If this is the case, of course, President Obama (or someone else) could just say so and the controversy mostly would vanish.

What bugs me is the metaphor: Obama says the United States won’t put out the pictures because “we don’t need to spike the football.” By this, he means that America shouldn’t gloat over the death of the world’s most-wanted terrorist. But if a police department releases gruesome photos of a shooting, does it “spike the football”? No, it simply provides evidence. It has nothing to do with gloating–and neither do the calls to release these pictures.

Separately, spiking the football is a great sport-specific ritual. The NCAA may frown upon it, but as end-zone celebrations go, this is about as modest as they come, like slapping the hand of the third-base coach on a home-run trot. I wish the president hadn’t implied there was something unbecoming about it.

John J. Miller is the national correspondent for National Review and the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. His new book is Reading Around: Journalism on Authors, Artists, and Ideas.

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